Ocopa arequipeño – Peruvian cheese & potato yumminess

By Emma.
Arequipa by night

Arequipa by night

Even though I spent most of my time in Arequipa stumbling about in a haze of antibiotics, I was stumbling about happily. Arequipa is beautiful, sleek and home to some incredible food. I absolutely loved one dish so much that I had it three times in the space of two days – cheese and potatoes, I say no more! Here’s a recipe I’ve cobbled together (finer points thereof completely guessed/robbed from fabulous restaurants Ary Quepay and La Trattoria del Monasterio)  so I can try repot Arequipa at home.  Here’s hoping !

Ocopa arequipeño 

Serves 6


6 potatoes
115g dry-roasted peanuts
6 Aji Amarillo (small yellow chillies), deseeded and chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 onion, roughly chopped
112 g Huacatay leaves, chopped (or substitute -so the interweb tells me- for a mixture of equal parts of freshly minced mint, basil and coriander)
9 Ritz or Tuc crackers, crushed
230g Queso fresco (or substitute Halloumi cheese)
237ml milk
3 hard-boiled Eggs, halved, to garnish (I’d happily leave these out – why eggs why?!)
Lettuce leaves, to garnish
2 Tomatoes, sliced, to garnish
12 kalamata olives, pitted, to garnish
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Wash potatoes well (or peel according to taste), place in cold salted water and bring to the boil. Boil on medium heat until tender (approx. 25 minutes). Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil and sauté onion over a medium heat until soft (approx. 5 mins; do not brown).
3. Add garlic and chopped chillies, and sauté over low heat for another 4 mins. Again, don’t allow the mixture to brown.
4. Add huacatay (or substitute mixture). Remove from heat, and allow to cool.
5. Purée the cooled mixture with the roasted peanuts, crackers and milk in a blender.
6. Simmer blended sauce in a saucepan until it thickens slightly, about 8 minutes.
7. Warm potatoes.
8. Cut halloumi cheese into slices 1cm thick. Fry on each side until golden brown.

9. On each plate, place 2 halves of warmed potato on bed of lettuce leaves, sliced tomato, half hard-boiled egg and a couple of kalamata olives.
10. Pour warmed sauce over the potatoes and top with 2 hot slices of fried halloumi cheese.
11. Serve immediately.


Ocopa arequipeño at La Trattoria del Monasterio, Arequipa


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